Time Capsule #12
The value of pessimism, the Battle of Britain, and the play of the week.
I have been off of social media for some time now — with the exception of my [lowkey] Twitter account which I don’t use much, and Facebook, which is not nearly as addicting as it used to be (it has been largely abandoned by the youth and repopulated with uncles, aunties and other distant relations). The most notable change in my life has been the increased amount of boredom that I am now unable to fill with random social media content. Before, I’d go straight to my phone, finding refuge in an endless stream of inflammatory Twitter fights or Instagram models. Now, I find neither of them. I am forced to look my boredom straight in the face, and in doing so I get back many precious minutes and mental bandwidth that would have been lost otherwise. I now have to make a conscious decision on what to do with my time, which ends up being something more valuable.
With regards to the social media exodus: what once felt isolating and somewhat wrong has now become normal and integral to my peace-of-mind. I will do my best to avoid social media, news, and the like for as long as I can manage.
Anyways, on to business.
✏️ On Schopenhauer’s Approach to Life
As a reliable compass for orientating yourself in life nothing is more useful than to accustom yourself to regarding this world as a place of atonement, a sort of penal colony. When you have done this you will order your expectations of life according to the nature of things and no longer regard the calmities, sufferings, torments and miseries of life as something irregular and not to be expected but will find them entirely in order, well knowing that each of us is here being punished for his existence and each in his own particular way. This outlook will enable us to view the so-called imperfections of the majority of men (i.e. their moral and intellectual shortcomings and the facial appearance resulting therefrom) without surprise and certainly without indignation: for we shall always bear in mind where we are and consequently regard every man first and foremost as a being who exists as a consequence of his culpability and whose life is an expiation of the crime of being born.
~ Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer is regarded as one of the most pessimistic philosophers, a sentiment clearly demonstrated in the above quote from his work Essays and Aphorisms. Despite this obviously negative view of the human experience, let’s dissect this quote and see what we can learn.
Schopenhauer suggests that you view the world as a sort of correctional facility, a place where you are sent to atone for your inevitable sins. In taking up this viewpoint, we release ourselves from the bitterness that arises when dealing with the “moral and intellectual failings” of our fellow humans. When a wrong is done to us, when we meet an opinion so clearly opposed to our own, we have the tendency to take up a defensive position, to fight our corner in the name of justice and righteousness. This is all well and good. But the reality of life is that life is not a fairy-tale: the good comes with the bad just as night comes with day and death comes with life. To expect anything otherwise is to set yourself up for disappointment, and more importantly, to condemn yourself when you inevitably do wrong yourself, “for with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Luke 6:38)".
Instead, Schopenhauer asks us to view life in a more pessimistic, but arguably more realistic way.
For what can be expected of beings placed in such a situation as we are? From this point of view one might indeed consider that the appropriate form of address between man and man ought to be, not monsieur, sir, but fellow sufferer, compagnon de misères. However strange this may sound it corresponds to the nature of the case, makes us see other men in a true light and reminds us of what are the most necessary of all things: tolerance, patience, forebearance, and charity, which each of us needs and which each of us therefore owes.
Perhaps by expecting and accepting the worst we bring out the best in us.
📸 Photo of the Week
During the Battle of Britain, Spitfires shot down 529 enemy aircraft, sustaining 230 of their own losses.
📖 Book (Play) of the Week — Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare
The tempter or the tempted, who sins most?
~ William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
I have not seen or read this play in its entirety, to be honest. But, I watched an excellent analysis of the play by Martin Sugrue and have read and understood enough of it to think it a fantastic play and worthy of recommendation. The play centers around the fate of Claudio, who is arrested in Vienna on charges of unlawful sexual activity by Lord Angelo, put in charge by the Duke of Vienna before he [supposedly] leaves town. The plot thickens as the paths of justice and morality diverge, with Angelo proposing a contemptible offer to Claudio’s sister in return for her brother’s life. All the while, the Duke of Vienna watches from afar as the highly moralistic Angelo succumbs to the weight of his own authority. It’s a fascinating story and I would recommend Dr. Sugrue’s lecture on the play, as well as any of his other lectures on Western philosophical thought.
💭 Quote of the Week
God gives us a cross, and gives us the strength to bear it.
~ Leo Tolstoy
🔭 Sunday Best
#12. We go again.